19 Years Later

milkboys Articles, History 14 Comments

It has been 19 years since Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student, died as a result of being beaten and tortured by two classmates who targeted him because of his sexual identity. His injuries were so severe that the person who found his brutalised body tied to a fence initially thought he was a scarecrow—a lifeless, human form meant to scare.

Since Matthew’s horrific death and the subsequent murder trials of his attackers, the US has taken small, but important, steps to protect queer individuals through legislation—including the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009, which made assaulting an individual because of sexual orientation or gender identity a federal crime. In 2013, President Obama also signed into law a reauthorizing of the Violence Against Women’s Act, which included added protections for LGBT victims of violence.

Yet 2017 has been the worst year on record for hate-related homicides of LGBTQ people in the US. In August, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) released a mid-year report that found that as of August 23, there had been 36 anti-LGBTQ homicides—the highest number NCAVP had recorded in its 20-year history of documenting this information. Three-quarters of these victims were people of colour; 19 were transgender or gender-nonconforming.

“This number represents a 29% increase in single incident reports from 2016,” the authors note. “So far in 2017, there has been nearly one homicide a week of an LGBTQ person in the US”

Cathy Renna is a longtime LGBTQ activist who spent more than a decade as GLAAD’s primary spokesperson, and actually travelled to Laramie in October 1998. She says how “extraordinary” it is to have a sense of “the change that has occurred because of the response to Matt’s murder and also how far we still have to go.”

On October 6, 1998—the morning Shepard was found, still alive but barely—Renna was living in Washington, DC. She’d just returned to her office after leaving a press conference announcing national advertising and advocacy against gay conversion therapy. Her phone, beeper, and email, which was still fairly new at the time, were lighting up with messages, she says. One of the people she spoke with was a friend of Shepard’s and the president of the LGBT student group at the University of Wyoming: They were feeling overwhelmed as media outlets began to converge on campus. The next morning, she jumped on an airplane and headed to Wyoming.

“The media and the community paid so much attention to this murder and was so motivated to action that it completely changed the way this issue was dealt with in American culture,” Renna says. “I spent a lot of time educating the media, both local and national, that were there about issues related to hate violence. The media were trying to portray this in a very sensational way … it was such a horrific case, and the reality was that this happens all the time. It had been happening for decades.” She clarified that gender nonconforming individuals and queer people of colour, especially, are often targets of violent crimes that go largely unreported in the media.

In the wake of Shepard’s murder and the subsequent coverage and activism, “there’s been an extraordinary amount of progress in terms of the education and awareness by so many,” she says. “However, with increased visibility can also come a backlash by those who are harboring anti-LGBTQ feelings. In a climate like the one we’re in now, not only do they feel emboldened, but they also feel they have permission to act on their hate and their homophobia and their transphobia. That is the reality of what the current administration has created.”

“It gives us an opportunity not to talk about Matt but to talk about all the other cases that did not get the attention that Matthew Shepard’s murder got.”

There’s evidence, she continues, not only in the political rhetoric used today but the actual policies and the actions that lawmakers are taking. For example, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley recently voted against a measure that condemned the use of the death penalty to punish people in same-sex relationships. And last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a guidance that would make it legal for any business to fire someone based on their sexual orientation.

“What happened to Matt is not unique. It happens all the time, and it mostly happens to those who are more marginalized,” Renna says. “That’s why I think it’s important we always go back and look at what happened to Matt—because it gives us an opportunity not to talk about Matt but to talk about all the other cases that did not get the attention that Matthew Shepard’s murder got.”

via Broadly

Comments 14

  1. As far as the USA is concerned, sorry, but it’s only going to get worse — until we get these Republican and religious lunatics OUT of the White House, Congress and Supreme Court — by any means necessary.

    Anyone [horsey] who says this is not about “religion” is talking out of their ass. And this goes back at least 5 generations of religious lunatics.

    “religions” are Socio-Political Ideologies [SPIs]

    1. We have at least three more years of anti-human policies in the US Government. Even if tRump disappeared today, we’d still have the totally homophobic, probably deeply closeted Mike Pence.

      1. Homophobes and racists must think they now have carte blanche to perpetrate all kinds of hate speeches and acts, restrict women’s and kids’ rights, get out of the UNESCO and UNICEF, promote climate change denial conspiracies and break their word to the COP21. The USA is in total chaos.

        I really like this picture of Matthew, with the window painting a premonitory cross. His surreal beauty will shine forever. I think he would never have been picked up and tortured if he had been average looking, jealousy probably played a big part in this murder.

        1. Astonishing wide mouth boys.
          Such sunshine smiles.
          Laughing and the world laughs with them.
          I’ve know a few.
          All beautiful.

  2. From Penboy: “— until we get these Republican and religious lunatics OUT of the White House, Congress and Supreme Court — by any means necessary.”

    Any means necessary? Wow. Just Wow. “Any means” is pretty inclusive, from the peaceful, lawfully procedural, to violence – even revolution. Go for it. Lock and load.

    Chimel – Speech, even hate speech is protected under the 1st Amendment, as it should be. Acts, however are regulated by statute, as they should be. Restricting women’s and kids’ rights is also rather completely addressed in law. Kids are just kids and their rights should be limited, as for wimmins, they’re a protected class and their rights are secured.

    The UN has devolved into a mutual-admiration society of Old World globalist socialists, Third World dictators, and radicalized Muslims. Pushing nonsense like multiculturalism, cultural equivalence, the Law of the Sea treaty and the Arms Trade treaty it seeks to expand political correctness and one-world authoritarianism at the expense of nationalism and independent sovereignty. I hope getting out of UNESCO and UNICEF is just the beginning; I would like to see the USA pull out of the UN altogether, or at least stop funding its anti-Semitic and bigoted agenda.

    As for climate change denial conspiracy theories, Ottmar Edenhofer, lead author of the UN’s IPCC’s fourth summary report released in 2007 candidly expressed the priority. Speaking in 2010, he advised, “One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. Instead, climate change policy is about how we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth.”

    Or, as U.N. climate chief Christina Figueres pointedly remarked, the true aim of the U.N.’s 2014 Paris climate conference was “to change the [capitalist] economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.”

    The climate change hoax is just another socialist scam to rob from the rich nations and give to the poor ones.

    1. Horselips said:

      “The UN has devolved into a mutual-admiration society of Old World globalist socialists, Third World dictators, and radicalized Muslims.”

      “As for climate change denial conspiracy theories, Ottmar Edenhofer, lead author of the UN’s IPCC’s fourth summary”

      “Or, as U.N. climate chief Christina Figueres pointedly remarked”

      You can’t have it both ways.
      With broad generalities you condemn the UN as worthless yet when the narrative fits you’re happy to quote from it.

      “The climate change hoax is just another socialist scam”

      LOL. Oh bless – you keep on telling yourself that, m’kay?

      As for the rest, I’m with Upi.
      Isn’t that what the 2nd amendment is all about and why the USA is awash with unregulated weaponry?
      Or is it all just stupid dick-waving?

      1. Quote: “You can’t have it both ways.
        With broad generalities you condemn the UN as worthless yet when the narrative fits you’re happy to quote from it.”

        No contradiction there – I quote from it to prove my original point. Quoting the UN validates my opinion of the UN.

        I noticed that you had no substantive argument to deny the fraud freely admitted to by these officials.

        As for the 2nd Amendment, it’s there to sustain the ideology presented in the Declaration of Independence – that governments derive their legitimacy solely and exclusively from the consent of the governed, and when that government exceeds its jurisdiction and infringes on the unalienable rights granted us by our Creator, the people may revoke their consent at their discretion, and have every right to overthrow it. President Tommy Jefferson quipped that “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of tyrants and patriots.” Another Founding Father, Tommy Paine, author of “Common Sense,” held that “the duty of a patriot is to protect his country from its government.” And you thought you were a radical? LOL.

        To do that, the people need to be armed, and so we are. Well, barely. With just over 300 million firearms in private hands, that’s not even enough to go around – and only about 18 million would be effective in a combat application. Among them, there are only about 7 million AR15s and 3 million AK47s. We need millions more. And the estimated 7 billion rounds of ammunition in private hands is also just a good beginning. Americans shoot up over 3 million rounds every day- that’s well over a billion rounds a year – in a full-on revolution or civil war, usage expands exponentially – we’d have about a week’s worth or ammo and then it’s over. Come to think about it, I’ve been to the range quite a bit lately, and I’m down to around 1,200 rounds myself – time to go shopping.

        Patrick Henry, in a speech to the Virginia Convention, declared, “Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us.”
        Admiral Yamamoto, when asked if Imperial Japan should invade the USA is said by some to have observed, ” You cannot invade America. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass.”

    2. Horselips, maybe you should read the actual interview of Ottmar Edenhofer rather than the redacted sentences from climate change denialist Anthony Watts. Same for Christiana Figueres, you added “true aim” and “capitalistic”, when she said and meant nothing of the kind. Your “quotes” are not actual quotes at all.

      Your car is now more fuel-efficient than previous generations, where is that robbing the rich to give to the poor? Photovoltaic electricity costs less than coal’s, are you the robber, the rich or the poor in this scenario?

      True, even hate speech is protected, I mean only speech directly or indirectly advocating violence, which is the case for doing a protest with nazi flags or KKK hoods. And I don’t necessarily mean the US. In France, you will for instance get convicted for saying concentration camps did not exist.

      But even the American First Amendment has several restrictions, like enticement to violence or suicide, false statements such as libel and slander, some forms of offensive or obscene speech, false advertising, etc.

      1. I have read the interview, and also watched videos of Edenhofer on YouTube – and I reject the apologists’ whitewashing of what he said. Figueres is equally dangerous – both of these clowns actually believe the industrialized nations hijacked the atmosphere, and stole it from the undeveloped world. Their rather Marxist interpretation of the atmosphere as a fixed pie, and the world’s only successful industrial and economic model (capitalism) is undeniable.

        My car is much improved over the cars of yesteryear, and I’m happy about that. I’m a big fan of high technology. The relentless CAFE and safety standards require non-stop research and development and do add significantly to the cost of vehicles, pricing them out of reach of the poor and lower middle classes – I guess used cars will just have to do for them.

        As for the cost of electricity from the various methods of generation, I will be happy to leave the outcome of that little competition to the free market, uncorrupted by governmental favoritism in the form subsidies, rebates, tax breaks, and incentives to customers, and crony-capitalism for producers.

        Nazi flags and KKK hoods do not of themselves cause violence – directly or indirectly – neither did wearing Che Guevara T shirts, flying North Vietnamese flags and waving Mao’s Little Red Book did back in the late 60s. As I have said before, all socialists are alike – national socialists (Nazis), international socialists (Commies), democratic socialists (Totalitarian progressives)- they’re all authoritarians at heart. But loathe them as we both do, it is protected speech, as it must be, lest we start down that slippery slope to censorship and pre-emption. True, real incitement to violence, as practiced by Black Lives Matter and Antifa is a chargeable offense, as it should be.

        All rights have limits. Freedom of religion does not embrace human sacrifice, even the right to keep and bear arms is infringed with bans on fully automatic weapons and heavy artillery. But when an unalienable right is limited, it must be done with great care and scrutiny, lest that limitation take us to some egregious unintended consequence that compromises Liberty, or dangerously increases the power of government at the expense of the individual.

  3. Horselips said

    “” Any means necessary? Wow. Just Wow. “Any means” is pretty inclusive, from the peaceful, lawfully procedural, to violence – even revolution. Go for it. Lock and load. “”

    At the end of the day, why not?
    It’s the foundation of your Constitution 2nd Amendment.

    And in such case where the population has had enough, rises up and overthrows Government then your Constitution has properly served it’s purpose.

    To denigrate this is to be unAmerican.

    By implication, the 2nd Amendment demands that you overthrow an unwholesome Government. Not to do so likely tags one as a coward.

  4. @horsey:
    “Any means necessary? Wow. Just Wow. “Any means” is pretty inclusive, from the peaceful, lawfully procedural, to violence – even revolution.”

    That’s exactly right. You spread your total religious and Republican party bullshit — by any means as well — you always have and always will. You LIE, CHEAT, STEAL and MURDER whomever “stands in your [‘religious’ / Republican] way” towards your always stated goal: TOTAL CONTROL OF SOCIETY.

    So, YES, you [plural, figurative] need to be removed by any means necessary.

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